While the latter question above is a philosophical conundrum mostly queried by old men staring at the stars from the top of a mountain, the former is usually asked during a period of self-loathing after waking up with a hangover after long night of partying.
Or in some cases, after you see most of your Facebook friends “humble-brag” their successes online while you’re there stuck on the couch bingeing on Netflix and gaining weight.
Regardless, most twenty-somethings experience that period of self-doubt where they ask, what am I doing with my life? That is called a quarter-life crisis. It is a time when it seems that the future is bleak, and you’ll be stuck where you are for eternity. However, it’s much more harmless than it seems.
What is a quarter life crisis and how does it lead to asking what am I doing with my life?
Ask anyone from the older generation and you’ll probably get, “There’s no such a thing as a quarter life crisis,” followed by a lecture on how you’re born into luckier times and you should just suck it up, stop whining, and get a job.
Sadly, there’s a truth into this harsh advice. The so-called quarter life crisis happens during the post-college early adult days when you find yourself unsatisfied with how life is happening for you.
It is a period of doubting your capabilities to be successful, and you don’t find fulfillment brought on by the stresses of adult life. As a result, you ask, what am I doing with my life? [Read: Love or career? How to make the right choice]
What brings on the quarter life crisis?
Whether you realize you’ve been through *or are currently in* a quarter life crisis, there are always factors that bring it on. So here are a few things that are the culprit.
#1 When things don’t work the way you planned. All people have dreams and aspirations. And we go through life thinking that after you finish school, you’ll be there living your dream life. But more often than not, adulthood finds a way to disappoint us.
You could either be working a job you hate, stuck paying off your student loans for the next five years, or just be in a field so far from what you dreamed of. [Read: How to balance your career, social life, and dating life]
#2 When what you want doesn’t correspond to what you can offer. People who claim to be in a quarter life crisis mostly complain how they are not becoming successful in the field they wanted.
Lots of auditions and you still can’t get that role, failed business ventures, and maybe lack of recognition in your art. It is easy to think that you are a failure, especially if you already fail right before you get your first success.
#3 Feeling that you are left behind. When feeling this feeling, it is common to ask yourself, what am I doing with my life? All your college friends have gone off living their lives. They are working in top-tier positions, enjoying overseas vacations, and having their dream wedding while you are stuck in a place they were three years ago. You lament that success is not coming your way the way they got theirs.
Dealing with a quarter life crisis
#1 Recognizing your situation. Congratulations are in order! The moment you stopped in your tracks and asked yourself, “What am I doing with my life?” is the first step toward getting away from your quarter life crisis. [Read: How to take the next steps to success]
Recognizing that your life is not going in the direction that you want is the starting point for working your way to make your life the way you want it to be. It means that you are willing to make changes to make your life the way you want.
#2 Changing your perspective. Letting a quarter life crisis muddle your perspective will not get you out of that rut. Most of the time, the so-called quarter life crisis is merely a state of mind which only needs a change of perspective for you to go on your way.
-Accept that adult life is challenging. The moment you start living on your own away from your parents’ advice and support, your freedom comes with a price. These include paying your own bills, working a job, having less time for fun, and having to make difficult decisions that will determine your life.
Accepting that this is the way adult life works will make you think of creating solutions instead of blaming adulthood for your misfortunes.
-Failure is a constant part of life. Like what all success stories tell us, failure can happen to anyone, and it shouldn’t be a hindrance for you to push forward. Successful people often have had life-crippling challenges come their way, and the reason they are successful is that they continued to work hard despite the disadvantages they faced.
-This will pass. People who experience quarter life crises often feel that they are a failure. What they don’t realize is that they are just getting started. All types of crises have an end – even the worst ones. The only thing you need to do is to think of your crisis as a transition or a phase that you will overcome in the end. [Read: How to stop being jealous of other people’s success]
#3 Stop blaming things that you can’t control. One thing about adult life people should learn is that things don’t always go according to plan. And there are things in life bigger than you that you cannot control. It can be the economic situation, the job market, workplace preferences, and society itself.
Being obsessed and depressed with such things often gives you doubt about your own capabilities and will discourage you from taking positive action. Instead, you should focus on things you do have control of.
-Embrace change. If things are not working according to plan, you might need to change things. If it’s your job, then find another one that you love and where your efforts will be recognized. If financial problems are hampering your success, then re-evaluate how you deal with your money.
-Strive for perfection, but don’t be obsessive-compulsive. There are times in life that “good enough” works instead of perfect. While striving for perfection is a positive attitude, one must consider the price of perfection.
And if striving for perfection is unnecessary and costly to your success, then don’t obsess and just get it at the right level. Besides, “perfect” doesn’t really exist anyway. [Read: Essential traits of successful men you should work on]
#4 Be successful in your own way. Don’t be envious of your peers’ success, because while you may think that you’re living an uneventful life, some people must be dying to live yours. Success is not always about the money you make, or the places you go on vacation, but rather it’s about how happy you are with your life.
#5 Continue to improve yourself. Always welcome new information. Read and study whenever you can. Books will always be money well spent. These three mantras are the core of improving yourself as a person.
If you’re an artist who is having trouble finding your style, backtrack and research the artists you love and admire. Learn new techniques, discard the ones that don’t work, and experiment with new mediums until you find that sweet spot you’re looking for.
#6 One day at a time. People go into a quarter life crisis because they set unachievable goals that they cannot handle. As the saying goes, Rome was not built in a day.
The road to fulfillment is reached by starting with baby steps and then building your pace. From an engineering perspective, focus on solving one problem at a time, and then move on to the next. [Read: Life’s a bitch? 17 feel-good ways to make yourself feel better]
#7 Have a positive outlook for the future. As mentioned, start by realizing that the quarter life crisis is just a phase that you will overcome later on. You are young, and you are just starting your adult life. So all these challenges will merely be a life lesson for you in the future.
Once you come to terms with the fact that life will be a challenge from here on, you can then move forward and adopt solutions. As the eastern martial arts philosophy says, “When confronted by a falling boulder, you can either break a rock with your fist, or use your feet to dodge.”
[Read: How to enjoy life and make it memorable]
Quarter life crises can happen to anyone who begins to wonder, what am I doing with my life? Being in a rut is normal, but it is not permanent if a person chooses to do something about it.
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